Silence Poem by Edgar Lee Masters


Rating: 3.6

I have known the silence of the stars and of the sea,
And the silence of the city when it pauses,
And the silence of a man and a maid,
And the silence of the sick
When their eyes roam about the room.
And I ask: For the depths,
Of what use is language?
A beast of the field moans a few times
When death takes its young.
And we are voiceless in the presence of realities --
We cannot speak.

A curious boy asks an old soldier
Sitting in front of the grocery store,
"How did you lose your leg?"
And the old soldier is struck with silence,
Or his mind flies away
Because he cannot concentrate it on Gettysburg.
It comes back jocosely
And he says, "A bear bit it off."
And the boy wonders, while the old soldier
Dumbly, feebly lives over
The flashes of guns, the thunder of cannon,
The shrieks of the slain,
And himself lying on the ground,
And the hospital surgeons, the knives,
And the long days in bed.
But if he could describe it all
He would be an artist.
But if he were an artist there would be deeper wounds
Which he could not describe.

There is the silence of a great hatred,
And the silence of a great love,
And the silence of an embittered friendship.
There is the silence of a spiritual crisis,
Through which your soul, exquisitely tortured,
Comes with visions not to be uttered
Into a realm of higher life.
There is the silence of defeat.
There is the silence of those unjustly punished;
And the silence of the dying whose hand
Suddenly grips yours.
There is the silence between father and son,
When the father cannot explain his life,
Even though he be misunderstood for it.

There is the silence that comes between husband and wife.
There is the silence of those who have failed;
And the vast silence that covers
Broken nations and vanquished leaders.
There is the silence of Lincoln,
Thinking of the poverty of his youth.
And the silence of Napoleon
After Waterloo.
And the silence of Jeanne d'Arc
Saying amid the flames, "Blessed Jesus" --
Revealing in two words all sorrows, all hope.
And there is the silence of age,
Too full of wisdom for the tongue to utter it
In words intelligible to those who have not lived
The great range of life.

And there is the silence of the dead.
If we who are in life cannot speak
Of profound experiences,
Why do you marvel that the dead
Do not tell you of death?
Their silence shall be interpreted
As we approach them.

Carla Detrie 12 October 2007

I read this poem in high school - quite some time ago - and it has always been with me. A beautiful poem with so very much to say even today. A Classic.

11 5 Reply
Matthew Brown 15 November 2006

I have spent an hour looking for this online. It first came to my attention in a very old volume of poetry but i could not remember when or where i had read it.The Poem, for me, goes far beyond anything i could describe and if Mr.Masters had not written anything else..this would have been good enough for me..thank you for being here for me am delighted with your service AND FREE! ! ! HOW GOOD.............. MATTHEW F BROWN

8 5 Reply
Obed Souza 06 April 2009

I Just love it! Silence can be so revealing and expresses so many things!

6 5 Reply
Kenneth Maswabi 02 March 2015

Wow! i am touched by the silence.Thank you.

6 4 Reply
Sally Plumb Plumb 04 April 2016


7 1 Reply
Betty Heim 04 March 2022

I first read this in 10th grade literature class, back in 1956 and it still is in my heart. I am writing out copies now to send to all of my grandchildren, praying they will also hold it in their hearts forever.

1 0 Reply
Hugh G Rection 09 December 2020

Oh, but if he were an artist, there would be deeper wounds which he could NOT describe.

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hugh ganus 09 June 2020

awesome writing

1 0 Reply
Paresh Chakra 01 December 2018

This poem is very thoughtful poem

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MIZZY............. 15 March 2018

I LOVE THIS POEM! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! !

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Edgar Lee Masters

Edgar Lee Masters

Kansas / United States
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